Ascanio Maione

I sometimes post links to videos for purely informative reasons without necessarily being convinced by the quality of what is on offer. This time, however, I wanted to share a couple of short videos I really enjoyed of a very young French player (she has not yet finished her studies) performing two pieces by a much neglected Neapolitan composer. Her name is Louise Acabo.

The instrument is a split-key Italian harpsichord by Matthias Griewisch.

A CD of works by Maione released some years ago by Michèle Dévérité is still available and Il Levante Libreria Éditrice have published a one volume modern edition of three of his books from the first years of the 17th century.

Best,

Matthew

Le 07/06/2021 11:13, Matthew Daillie via The Jackrail écrit :

I sometimes post links to videos for purely informative reasons
without necessarily being convinced by the quality of what is on
offer. This time, however, I wanted to share a couple of short videos
I really enjoyed of a very young French player (she has not yet
finished her studies) performing two pieces by a much neglected
Neapolitan composer. Her name is Louise Acabo.

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/embed/sUPMTC2mal8?autoplay=1&feature=oembed&wmode=opaque

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/embed/TOziftiUsM4?autoplay=1&feature=oembed&wmode=opaque

The instrument is a split-key Italian harpsichord by Matthias Griewisch.

Thanks, Matthew. Very nice videos, on all counts - the music, the
playing, the instrument. We are fortunate to have so many gifted players
in France.

A CD of works by Maione released some years ago by Michèle Dévérité is
still available and Il Levante Libreria Éditrice have published a one
volume modern edition of three of his books from the first years of
the 17th century.

Are these two pieces in the volume published by Il Levante? I must
confess I’d never heard of Maione.

Well Dennis, I don’t have the Il Levante edition but they should be, as both the Toccata Quinta and the Ancidetemi Pur are from the Diversi capricci per sonare Libro I. You can find them on IMSLP of course, either in fascimile form or in the Christopher Stembridge Zanibon edition (the availability of which I imagine is in breach of copyright rules).

For good measure, here is an extract from another Toccata Quinta by Maione but this time for ‘cimbalo cromatico’ which Johannes Keller plays on a reconstruction of an archicembalo. I bet no one on the list has one of those!

Best,
Matthew

Matthew might be underestimating the world population of archicembali.
I have a 1986 copy of the Vito Trasuntino clavemusicum omnitonum in the Museo civico, Bologna (intended, according to its accompanying monochord, for something approaching 31TET).
Best wishes,
Lewis.

OK, I’ll reveal my ignorance. I am familiar with the typical split sharp instruments where some ‘black’ keys are split in two. But this thing seems to have three levels of key for every accidental. What’s it for? And how is it built – extra strings for every accidental??

1 Like

Lewis, I think we’re going to need some photos and the name of the builder to make this credible.
Best,
Matthew

Indeed David, 31 strings per octave (unlike the Sambuca Lincea which was a sort of clavichord where the microtones within every tone were “fretted” playing the same string). Good accounts of Vicentino and Trasuntino 31-note system (for which Maione composed some pieces) are in books AFAIK. I prefer mine of course, also the most affordable, which obviously you do not have: Unequal Temperaments , but if you prefer something more detailed on the matter and printed and bound, I strongly recommend another book that obviously you do not have either: Barbieri’s Enharmonic Instruments . Cheers!

David, I think Lewis would be more competent to answer your question than I am, but here is a summary of what Edward Kottick has to say in his ‘History of the Harpsichord’:

Guido Trasuntino built his 1606 archicembalo with its 31 notes per octave to play the three genera (diatonic, chromatic and enharmonic) described by Greek music theory. There are sharp and flat keys between B and C and between E and F and each accidental has four keys. The idea was to be able to play all chords in just intonation with pure fifths and thirds (which would actually require 36 notes per octave).

Guido’s instrument is pretty extreme but keyboards with 19 notes per octave were apparently quite common in Italy.

Best,
Matthew

Indeed Matthew. For my taste Kottick’s book (excellent as it is, the best History of the Harpsichord around) is nowhere as detailed as what David really needs to fully understand the 31-note system. An opinion, of course … As for 19 notes per octave, let me also observe that, if I remember well the research by Denzil Wraight on the matter, the instruments with 14 notes per octave were by far the most common, with dozens surviving. 19 notes per octave were advocated by Salinas, but actual instruments built I believe there are two or three extant only, including a fortepiano. Btw, Salinas’s 19-division (an extreme variant of meantone of scarce musical use) is also fully described in both books I recommended. Again, I apologise for being “controversial”, “argumentative”, whatever, too late going to bed now … ! :slight_smile:

David, Matthew, all,

The most ‘usual’ tuning of the archicembali with 31 tones per octave (Vicentino and others acknowledge that there were alternative tunings) and of Vicentino’s archiorgano exploit the similarity of quarter-comma meantone and 31TET: if we extend sharpwards and flatwards the familiar restricted meantone available with only 12 keys per octave, we arrive after 31 fifths at (almost) a closed system. An infinitessimal tweaking of the quarter-comma fifths to 696.77 cents gives true 31TET (the two temperaments are almost indistinguishable to the ear). In a piece in Fabio Colonna’s La Sambuca lincea, Scipione Stella circulates, modulating (repetitiously!) through all 31 keys, starting and ending on G.
So the tone is divided not into 2 parts but into 5, the minor (chromatic) semitone consisting of 2 fifths and the major (diatonic) semitone consisting of 3.

In the keyboard of Vito Trasuntino’s 1606 ‘clavemusicum omnitonum’, each raised ‘black’ key is divided into 4, providing, for example between C and D (in pitch order): Dbb, C#, Db, Cx.
Proceeding from front to rear of Trasuntino’s keyboard, these are arranged in the following order: C# (as in the usual meantone tuning), Db (the enharmonic counterpart of C#, allowing fluent playing in flat keys), Cx, and Dbb (the less familiar tones being the most remote from the player). So the frontmost 2 of the 5 orders of keys correspond to the normal meantone keyboard.

Don Nicola Vicentino, in L’antica Musica ridotta alla moderna prattica (1555), arranged essentially the same 31 tones across not one 5-order manual but two closely spaced 3-order ones, with 5 extra keys (the rearmost order) giving a total of 36 per octave.
As Vicentino demonstrated in the 1540s and 50s, the availability of these subtly-spaced tones allowed playing not only in the familiar diatonic and chromatic genera but also in the enharmonic genus (slithering by fifth-tone steps) in imitation, he thought, of the music of the ancients. The published translation of L’antica Musica by Maria Rika Maniates makes Vicentino’s extensive writing on this practice accessible to the anglophone reader.
Best wishes,

Lewis.

Thank you Lewis for your detailed explanations and Claudio for your suggested reading. Much to ponder and to explore.

On a practical level, I find it difficult to find a suitable meantone tuning for playing some of the 16th century and early 17th century Italian repertoire if one has a keyboard with no split sharps. An example is another piece by Maione entitled Recercare Sopra il Canto Fermo di Costantio Festa (from Diversi capricci per sonare, Libro II). It requires an Ab in bar 8 and a G# in bar 30. Fortunately they are not in the same octave so one can tune the specific notes differently (Paul Poletti discusses this practice and the problems it raises in his section on Tuning and Temperament in The Cambridge Companion to the Harpsichord). The piece also requires one to tune so as to have C#s and F#s as well as Bbs and Ebs. There are many other situations, however, where there just don’t seem to be any satisfactory solutions if one doesn’t have a split-key instrument.

Interestingly, the piece which follows the Recercar mentioned above in Maione’s book is a far more elaborate version for harp (‘per sonar all’arpa’). One wonders how much the keyboard player was expected to use it as an inspiration for his own performance. Here is what it sounds like:

Best,

Matthew

Thank you everyone for the informative replies – a lot to work through here!

Le 08/06/2021 10:33, Matthew Daillie via The Jackrail écrit :

[mdaillie] mdaillie https://jackrail.space/u/mdaillie Matthew Daillie
June 8

Thank you Lewis for your detailed explanations and Claudio for your
suggested reading. Much to ponder and to explore.

On a practical level, I find it difficult to find a suitable meantone
tuning for playing some of the 16th century and early 17th century
Italian repertoire if one has a keyboard with no split sharps. An
example is another piece by Maione entitled Recercare Sopra il Canto
Fermo di Costantio Festa (from Diversi capricci per sonare, Libro II).
It requires an Ab in bar 8 and a G# in bar 30. Fortunately they are
not in the same octave so one can tune the specific notes differently
(Paul Poletti discusses this practice and the problems it raises in
his section on Tuning and Temperament in The Cambridge Companion to
the Harpsichord). The piece also requires one to tune so as to have
C#s and F#s as well as Bbs and Ebs. There are many other situations,
however, where there just don’t seem to be any satisfactory solutions
if one doesn’t have a split-key instrument.

Do all or most of Maione’s pieces require split sharps or at least a
specific tuning? Or do some of them work in a “regular” meantone?

Dear Matthew, all,

mdaillie Matthew Daillie
June 8

Thank you Lewis for your detailed explanations and Claudio for your suggested reading. Much to ponder and to explore.

Happy to expand on this if aspects of it are of interest.

On a practical level, I find it difficult to find a suitable meantone tuning for playing some of the 16th century and early 17th century Italian repertoire if one has a keyboard with no split sharps. An example is another piece by Maione entitled Recercare Sopra il Canto Fermo di Costantio Festa (from Diversi capricci per sonare, Libro II). It requires an Ab in bar 8 and a G# in bar 30.

Fortunately they are not in the same octave so one can tune the specific notes differently (Paul Poletti discusses this practice and the problems it raises in his section on Tuning and Temperament in The Cambridge Companion to the Harpsichord). The piece also requires one to tune so as to have C#s and F#s as well as Bbs and Ebs. There are many other situations, however, where there just don’t seem to be any satisfactory solutions if one doesn’t have a split-key instrument.

Given the availability of the cembalo cromatico and, doubtless in larger numbers, of instruments with divided D#/Eb and G#/Ab in at least the middle two octaves, notably in Naples and Rome, it’s likely that Ascanio Mayone would have had such an instrument in mind; but it seems likely that players with only 12 keys per octave would have used a compromise tuning, as, for example, Arnolt Schlick already did a century earlier.

Interestingly, the piece which follows the Recercar mentioned above in Maione’s book is a far more elaborate version for harp (‘per sonar all’arpa’). One wonders how much the keyboard player was expected to use it as an inspiration for his own performance.

Although the GG-d’’’ compass of the ‘per l’arpa’ pieces published alongside their keyboard works by Mayone and Trabaci distinguishes them from the keyboard pieces, they can readily be adjusted (slightly) and sound very well on the harpsichord. Try playing Trabaci’s intabulation of Arcadelt’s Ancidetemi pur, which compares very favourably with Frescobaldi’s version of the same madrigal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WTwBQL1eDQ

Trabaci comments on the long duration of the bass notes of the harp – presumably in contradistinction to the swifter decay of the harpsichord – so harpsichordists might experiment with restriking certain notes where a more ample sound would help.

Of course, players of the triple harp, with 19 or 21 strings per octave, had added potential for subtleties of tuning…

Here is what it sounds like:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/avUmqnH3MrQ

Best wishes,

Lewis.

Dear Matthew, all,

mdaillie Matthew Daillie
June 7

David, I think Lewis would be more competent to answer your question than I am, but here is a summary of what Edward Kottick has to say in his ‘History of the Harpsichord’:

Guido Trasuntino built his 1606 archicembalo with its 31 notes per octave to play the three genera (diatonic, chromatic and enharmonic) described by Greek music theory. There are sharp and flat keys between B and C and between E and F and each accidental has four keys. The idea was to be able to play all chords in just intonation with pure fifths and thirds (which would actually require 36 notes per octave).

It doesn’t detract from the virtues of Ed Kottick’s book to note that just intonation is apparently not what Vito Trasuntino had in mind here.
The four-stringed ‘monochord’ preserved with his clavemusicum omnitonum (Venice 1606), depicted here:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/Clavemusicum.jpg
indicates a slightly unequal variant of 31TET, as I described yesterday.

Vicentino, on the other hand, in L’antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica (Rome, 1555), does describe an alternative tuning for his 36-key-per-octave archicembalo in which, while the 19 tones of the lower keyboard are (paraphrasing freely here) in meantone (or 31 TET), the 17 tones of the upper keyboard are tuned not as an extension of the incomplete 31TET cycle but in pure fifths above the lower.
Thus, for example, the triad C, E, G can be played (all on the lower keyboard) in normal meantone or, alternatively, while the C and E are played on the lower keyboard (still giving a just third) the G is played on the upper, giving a completely just triad. If one then progresses to the triad G, B, D, similarly taking the fifth (D) on the upper keyboard, the G root of the second chord will be lower in pitch than the fifth of the first chord – but, to my ears, very acceptably so. You can try this, with a more restricted range of tones, on a contrasting double-manual harpsichord.

Best wishes,

Lewis.

Most of Maione’s printed works are for 12-key per octave keyboards tuned in standard 1/4 comma meantone. There are three or so that are specifically for cromatico, and these can be played by tuning the affected notes to the appropriate pitch. Doing so is quite easy, as it only involves tuning pure (i.e. beatless) major thirds. Christopher Stembridge discusses this in his prefaces.

David

Dennis via The Jackrail on 08/06/2021 14:43:18 wrote -

On a practical level, I find it difficult to find a suitable meantone
tuning for playing some of the 16th century and early 17th century
Italian repertoire if one has a keyboard with no split sharps. An
example is another piece by Maione entitled Recercare Sopra il Canto
Fermo di Costantio Festa (from Diversi capricci per sonare, Libro II).
It requires an Ab in bar 8 and a G# in bar 30. Fortunately they are
not in the same octave so one can tune the specific notes differently
(Paul Poletti discusses this practice and the problems it raises in
his section on Tuning and Temperament in The Cambridge Companion to
the Harpsichord). The piece also requires one to tune so as to have
C#s and F#s as well as Bbs and Ebs. There are many other situations,
however, where there just don’t seem to be any satisfactory solutions
if one doesn’t have a split-key instrument.

I suggest modified 1/5th comma meantone. For sure it is not authentic but in practice I believe it works well.

F–C–G–D–A–E–B–F♯ : seven fifths 1/5 SYNTONIC comma
F♯–C♯–G♯ and B♭–F: pure fifths
A♭–E♭: wider by +1/5 SYNT. comma
E♭–B♭: taking the rest (ca. +1/10 PYTH. comma)

  • David Bedlow

Thanks David. I think 1/5 comma meantone is certainly historical (in so far as one can actually certify such things) and it is often a compromise of choice for lute players but I don’t think it would really solve the problem of needing both an Ab and a G# in the same piece. I also find that the purity of major thirds 1/4 comma bestows is pretty much irreplaceable for this sort of keyboard repertory.
Best,
Matthew

Can I pick your brains a little more, Lewis? Do you know whether there has been much further research carried out since the articles on Italian split-keyed instruments in the early nineties by Christopher Stembridge and Denzil Wraight (links below)? I am particularly interested in evidence of early 16th century Italian poylgonal virginals with split keys (some modern makers such as Alan Gotto do offer such models).

http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1138&context=ppr
http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1097&context=ppr
https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1104&context=ppr

Best,

Matthew

Dennis, you might like to read Christopher Stembridge’s article ‘Music for the Cimbalo Cromatico and the Split- Keyed Instruments in Seventeenth-Century Italy’. He covers this very issue in some detail (link in my previous posting addressed to Lewis).

Best,

Matthew